To make the respective work area as safe as possible, the first task is to create what is known as a risk assessment. The employer is legally obliged to prepare this as the basis for the implementation of the best possible, appropriate measures to protect the employees. And this applies to all areas of industry in which the employees are exposed to physical, biological, and chemical effects while performing their activities.
This is regardless whether they work in manufacturing, are particularly exposed to accidents, through the use of dangerous work equipment, or also through very long units of work.
But above all for workers who perform cleaning, maintenance, and servicing tasks on
and in other similarly exposed workplaces, the risk assessment plays an essential role, because in almost all cases a fall is associated with serious consequences for those affected, and it often results in death. For this reason, the law is particularly strict in these areas, and its correct implementation is also monitored accordingly.
It is therefore essential that employers who have employees working in potential risk areas perform a complete and thorough risk assessment. Its output then becomes the basis for creating a professional safety concept containing all necessary protective measures.
Risk and danger – the definitions
In contrast to an actual danger, risks are potential accidents or falls which can arise because of a lack of professional protective measures. The risk assessment determines the likelihood in the respective case that a risk becomes a danger. The objective of the risk assessment is therefore to exclude or minimise all risks from the very outset, using suitable measures, in order to protect the workers.
Approximate sequence: Creating a risk assessment
In the first step, the respective workplaces are closely analysed. Potential sources of danger can result from:
- Structure-related stumble hazards: On facades, roofs, and also in industry, structure-related stumble hazards represent a risk. Often a slight lack of attention by the employees is sufficient to result in an accident.
- The fall edge.
- Also skylights, because of the risk of a fall-through.
- Ascents and descents.
- Access and transits.
- And also weather conditions need to be considered when creating the risk assessment.
Only then can actual risks be determined in detail.
Determination of protective measures and review of practice
The actual risks form the basis for the selection of the specific, best possible protective measures which are required. For example, for facades, roofs, industrial applications, etc. these may include fall protection systems in combination with anti-fall PPE (individual protection) or collective protection, to prevent servicing and cleaning workers from coming to harm.
Obviously the affected workers must also be aware of the danger, and must be trained appropriately in order that they can apply all safety solutions correctly.
As soon as all safety precautions have been implemented as specified in the safety concept, they naturally also need to be thoroughly tested, because a fall protection system which does not withstand the forces from a fall during an emergency is no suitable protection whatsoever. This is what we call the illusion of safety.
Training the employees
Not only must all employees who work in the danger area be technically trained and qualified, they must also in effect become their own safety experts for their working area. This means, in turn, that they also require training in the use of the safety solution, in order to assemble and handle it correctly.
For example, it is essential that facade cleaners know how to don their anti-fall PPE correctly, and that they are able to attach themselves safely before they can do their job. This naturally also applies to other application areas where servicing and cleaning workers have to work in fall-risk areas (e.g. on PV installations on roofs).
When creating the risk assessment, it is advisable to include potential industrial safety experts, as well as company physicians.
In Austria the Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt (AUVA) [the Austrian accident insurance institution] provides support for risk assessments. You will find further information from the viewpoint of AUVA about risk assessments here.
The responsible body in Germany, die Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung (DGUV) [German Social Accident Insurance] provides a guideline on “Creation of guidance for risk assessment”. You will find further information on this subject here.
You will find useful information about risk assessment in Switzerland on the website of the Schweizerische Unfallversicherungsanstalt (SUVA) [Swiss National Accident Insurance Organization].
Please also feel free to speak to our experts if you have questions relating to the creation of your risk assessment, or about specific safety solutions.